In our country, mother is the epitome of strength. We worship this power and strength of mother in the form of Goddess Durga or Kali. We also worship our nation as a mother! It is our very own and dear motherland – “Deshmatrika”. So when we were requested to write about “strongest women”, “mother” is the thought that came to our mind. And today we will write about mothers of some brave heroes who attained supreme sacrifice to protect our dear motherland.
In last few years, Team Desh has been lucky enough to get in touch with three brave mothers whose sons have created history in Indian Army with their bravery, . Let us celebrate women’s day with the stories of these three brave mothers of our nation.
Smt. Maheshwari Khetrapal
“Fight like a lion and don’t come back as coward.” Saying these words, a brave mother had sent her eldest son to the war of 1971. The most worthy son of soil 2nd Lt. Arun Khetrapal set an unparallel example of bravery not only in the Indian history or in the war of 1971, but also in the world history. On 16th December in the eastern frontier, Pakistani Army accepted defeat and surrendered to Indian Army. But on the same time, Pakistani armour launched an attack on us from the western frontier. When the Indian Army deployed in the border of Basantar in Jammu and Kashmir informed our armour, Indian armour started proceeding. Newly joined 21 year of officer 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal of 17 Poona Horse, who was in ‘A’ squadron and was stationed close by with his Centurion tank troop, responded with alacrity, as did the rest of his regiment. Khetarpal rushed to meet the Pakistani armour and launched right into the Pakistani attack. With his troop he was able to run over the enemy advance with his tanks. However, the commander of the second tank was killed in this attack. Alone in charge, Khetarpal continued his attack on the enemy strongholds. The enemy did not retreat even after losses. 2nd Lt. Arun Khetrapal desperately attacked the incoming Pakistani troops and tanks gunning down a Pakistani tank in the process. However Pakistani forces regrouped and counterattacked. In the ensuing tank battle, Lt. Arun Khetarpal with his 2 remaining tanks fought off and gunned down 10. The skirmish however took its toll on the Lieutenant as he was hit by enemy fire, but instead of abandoning the tank he fought on destroying one final tank before he was finally overwhelmed. However, his actions had denied a vital breakthrough for Pakistani forces and instead put the Indians in a stronger position in the Shakargarh bulge. His final words over the radio to a superior officer who had ordered him to abandon his burning tank were, “No Sir, I will not abandon my tank. My Main gun is still working and I will get these bastards.”. Then he set about destroying the remaining enemy tanks. The last enemy tank, which he shot, was barely 100 metres from his position. At this stage his tank received a second hit and he was seriously injured. The young officer who was just 21 years old met his death like a lion trying to deny the Pakistani Army the intended breakthrough. The ever grateful motherland adorned him with the highest gallantry award of the nation Paramveer Chakra posthumously. On behalf of her brave son, the bravest mother collected the award.
After 1971, she lived for 41 more years with the pain of losing her beloved son. As long as her health permitted, she used to go to different military camps and motivated our soldiers to serve their dear motherland. At the very end of her life, once when a journalist asked her a lot of questions, she just told “I don’t remember much. But I only remember that my son Arun went for a war and never came back”. Being a wife of an officer, she knew the consequences of a war. But yet she has always been the inspiration for her son Arun to join the Indian Army and fight a war so bravely. The entire nation is ever grateful to this brave mother and son.
Smt. Hema Aziz
18 years back during a summer infiltration started in a village named Turtuk near Kargil. To prevent and handle this infiltration, under the leadership of Captain Haneefuddin of 11 Rajputana Rifles, Parvesh Kumar and Mangesh Singh proceeded towards the frontier with few weapons. After reaching the frontier, Captain Haneefuddin had to face a very difficult situation. Pakistani Army with full preparation was present in the frontier for a full fledged war. To face this situation with Light Machine Gun and some weapons were just beyond imagination. But Captain Haneefuddin knew that if he doesn’t prevent this attack, the entire Turtuk Village will be destroyed. Along with that the enemy will then be able to capture the Batalik sector also. But knowing the entire situation, Captain Haneefuddin was ordered from the base camp to withdraw. But the dearest son of Smt Hema Aziz never learned to give up from her mother in any tough situation. After the death of his father at the age of 8 years, his mother raised her three sons alone in the city of Delhi. Smt Hema Aziz had to travel a lot including abroad due to official tours. Her youngest son Sameer was very young at that time. She used to keep Sameer with her sister in Bangalore during such situations. Elder son Hafeez and middle son Haneef used to stay back at their home. Smt Hema Aziz knew her able son Haneef. So she used to hand over the charge of the entire house to Haneef during her absence. Little Haneef since the age of 8 years took care of the entire house in the absence of his mother. He even used to handle the finance of the house very efficiently. Smt Hema Aziz knew the risks involved with the profession of Indian Army. But never did she create any hurdle for Haneef to join Indian Army. Rather whenever Haneef was in doubt, she encouraged Haneef to join the forces.
On 6th June 1999, when she got the news of the supreme sacrifice of her dear son Babloo in Turtuk, she also got to know that along with Captain Haneefuddin, the mortal remains of the compatriots of his son were also not rescued. Then she had to suffer an intolerable wait of 42 days to see her son for the one last time. At that time, when the chief of Army came to meet her, in a very steady tone she told him that those who have lost their lives for the dear motherland will never return. Then why is he risking some more young lives by sending them to rescue the bodies of our martyred soldiers? What is the use of risking more lives during the time of a war? In these 42 days, many a time she had to go to the airport or cantonment to identify the bodies of the martyred soldiers who returned from the war zone. In an interview during that time she told, “When I went to Indian Military Academy for the passing out parade, I knew where is my Babloo in the parade. But after seeing all the officers, I felt all are my Babloos”. She couldn’t identify her son separately from the crowd. “Today also I feel and believe that all the soldiers fighting in the war protecting our border and nation are my Haneef only”. Recently she celebrated the 40th birthday of her brave son sitting alone with his portrait. Her other two sons are now well settled and established in life. But her life halted there on 6th June 1999 with her Babloo. But she never repents or complains about her son joining Indian Army or her son voluntarily leading his men in the Turtuk to fight the enemies. Rather she says, “I have always taught my son to stand by anyone who is in trouble and help the person”. Her worthy son has set an example following the values, ethics, education and sense of duty with which she raised Captain Hanefuddin. That is why she never sheds any tear for her brave son. Her loss is personal but she is always very proud of her dear son Babloo, our very own Captain Haneefuddin. The brave mother lives without any regret or complain. She is an inspiration and source of immense strength to all the mothers of our nation.
Smt. Rajeshwari Devi
Palampur is a beautiful small city in the heart of Himachal Pradesh. History of independent India is ever grateful this hilly city. First war for independent India was the India – Pakistan war in 1947. The brave sons of this city sacrificed themselves in every war or operation that took place in India after that. Sudhir Walia was the eldest son of Shree Rulia Raam Walia, a very simple soldier of Palampur. With his hard work and determination, Sudhir Walia stood first in every examination of his life. Then he joined National Defence Academy. Successfully passing out from NDA he joined the Jat Regiment as an officer. But later on when Indian Army came to know about his amazing leadership skills and awesome bravery, he was commissioned into the Paracommando, Special Force of our country. Towards the end of Kargil war, due to the extensive mine setting in the Zulu are, it was getting difficult for our Army to proceed further. Major Sudhir Walia selected 15 soldiers and proceeded for this impossible task with his own troop. With his skilled leadership, he gifted us victory in the said task. Afterwards while narrating the story to his mother, he told, “When I reached the Pakistani bunker, seeing me, the enemy army forgot to pick up the weapon. They asked ‘how did you come here? We had planted the mines so efficiently.’”. Witty Major Sudhir Walia replied back, “Now when I am here, you can’t help it. So come to me and surrender”. He later presented this soldier as a captive.
On 29th August, 1999, exactly after one month of Kargil war, Major Sudhir Walia was hit by bullets in his stomach during a terrorist attack in the Hafurda village of Kupwara area. His compatriots out of love, used to call him as Rambo. Just like the fictitious character of a movie, Rambo was capable enough to handle an entire Army single-handedly. He denied to get evacuated despite being hit by bullets in his stomach. With unparallel bravery and tremendous skill, he completed the task that was given to him. With the setting of the sun, the brave son of our soil, our beloved Rambo breathed his last.
Smt. Rajeshwari Devi’s home and heart is vacant since last 18 years as her dear son left him forever. Even then, no one has seen her breaking down in the sorrow of losing her son. Even today, at this old age, she attends all the programs of the regiment of her son by travelling to Udhampur from Palampur. She says, “My boys have called me. How will they get motivated if I don’t go there?” She has always been the first person to stand by the families of the martyrs in or around Palampur. On the 15th martyrdom day of her son, while remembering his bravery, she told, “It has been 15 years that Sudhir left us. Everybody has to leave someday. But my son left only after completing his work and duty. He didn’t leave midway”.
We have always been worshipping mothers and the power of motherhood through our Gods and Goddesses. But those brave mothers who give their sons to our dear motherland also deserve equal love, respect and worship. Every mother desires their children to grow up to a beautiful human being and lead a happy and safe life. Their dream is that their children will support them in their old age. It is not easy to sacrifice your child for the safety and security of millions of people of your country. When we are enjoying the luxury and leading a safe, secured and comfortable life, it is our duty to remember the brave mothers of our brave hearts. They have sacrificed their most precious possession which is allowing us to celebrate women’s day today. So come, let us all join together and salute these strong and brave mothers and thank them for everything. Dear mothers, bless us, continue to inspire us and give us strength so that we can raise our children to be a responsible citizen of this nation.